montana audubon issues - grasslands
Here's an overview of grassland bird conservation issues in Montana:
Montana holds the most extensive and significant grasslands in the Northern Great Plains (26% of our state). Across the US, grassland birds show the most declines of any group of birds monitored by Breeding Bird Surveys; 70% of these species are decreasing. Native grasslands provide critical habitat for several bird species that are undergoing widespread population declines: Long-billed Curlew, Mountain Plover, Sprague's Pipit, Golden Eagle, Burrowing Owl, Baird's Sparrow, Chestnut-collared Longspur, McCown's Longspur (pictured right), and others.
See also our:
Long-billed Curlew Initiative -- opens new page
Yet, Montana is blessed with relatively healthy numbers of these species, and careful stewardship of our native grasslands will help to ensure that grassland species do not become endangered throughout their range.
Specific activities and policies that threaten grasslands include:
- sodbusting of native grasslands to convert to agricultural production;
- oil, gas, and mineral development;
- certain wind farm development which fragments extensive grasslands;
- unsustainable grazing regimes;
- residential development;
- unmanaged recreational use;
- the introduction and establishment of invasive plants; and
- agricultural practices not consistent with sustaining or enhancing bird populations.
In Montana, some of our best native grasslands are found in northeastern Montana within the North Valley Important Bird Area:
Learn more about our Important Bird Area Program.